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New research shows that immediate rewards increase enjoyment and interest in tasks more compared to rewards at the end of a task.
Struggling to finish that report for your boss? One way to increase your interest in a task is to add immediate rewards, rather than wait until the end to reward yourself, according to new Cornell research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology titled "It's About Time: Earlier Rewards Increase Intrinsic Motivation."
Kaitlin Woolley assistant professor of marketing at Cornell University, found that giving people an immediate bonus for working on a task, rather than waiting until the end of the task, increased their interest and enjoyment in the task. People who got an earlier bonus were more motivated to pursue the activity for its own sake and even continued with the activity after the reward was removed.
In a series of five experiments, Woolley analyzed how reward proximity influenced intrinsic motivation -- the positive feeling that comes from the process of an activity -- and people's desire to persist in the task after the reward was removed.
"The idea that immediate rewards could increase intrinsic motivation sounds counterintuitive, as people often think about rewards as undermining interest in a task," Woolley said. "But for activities like work, where people are already getting paid, immediate rewards can actually increase intrinsic motivation, compared with delayed or no rewards."
"If you have a hobby -- say you like to knit or quilt -- the process itself is enjoyable, it's intrinsically motivated. You're doing it just for the sake of doing it, rather than for the outcome," Woolley said. Adding immediate rewards does something similar: It increases the positive experience of the task, with important outcomes for motivation and persistence.
In one study, people completed a task in which they spotted the difference in two images. Some people expected to receive an immediate bonus after they finished the task, whereas others expected to receive the same bonus in a month. An immediate bonus led to an almost 20 percent increase in the percent of people sticking with the task after the reward was removed compared with a delayed reward.
In another study, the researchers compared the timing of a reward with the size of the reward. They found that an immediate (versus delayed) bonus for reading led to a 35 percent increase in the number of people continuing to read after the reward was removed, whereas a larger (versus smaller) reward only led to a 19 percent increase. This suggests the timing of a reward may matter more for intrinsic motivation than the size of the reward, Woolley said.
The work has important implications for motivating employees. For example, a series of smaller, more frequent bonuses throughout the year could motivate employees more than a larger end-of-the year bonus. Similarly, this finding could inform loyalty programs for marketers trying to incentive customers to make more purchases.
Ironically, people balk at providing bonuses too soon, and think early rewards might have a negative consequences. "More evidence suggests immediate rewards are beneficial," said Woolley. "They're a useful tool for increasing interest in an activity."
The most stressful jobs are psychologically demanding but give employees little control
June 4, 2018
Science Daily/European Society of Cardiology
Having a stressful job is associated with a higher risk of a heart rhythm disorder called atrial fibrillation, according to new research.
The most stressful jobs are psychologically demanding but give employees little control over the work situation -- for example, assembly line workers, bus drivers, secretaries, and nurses.
The study found that being stressed at work was associated with a 48% higher risk of atrial fibrillation, after adjustment for age, sex, and education.
Dr Eleonor Fransson, study author and associate professor of epidemiology, School of Health and Welfare, Jönköping University, Sweden, said: "We need people to do these jobs but employers can help by making sure staff have the resources required to complete the assigned tasks. Bosses should schedule breaks and listen to employees' ideas on how the work itself and the work environment can be improved."
Atrial fibrillation is the most common heart rhythm disorder (arrhythmia). Symptoms include palpitations, weakness, fatigue, feeling light headed, dizziness, and shortness of breath.
Atrial fibrillation causes 20-30% of all strokes and increases the risk of dying prematurely.2 One in four middle-aged adults in Europe and the US will develop atrial fibrillation. It is estimated that by 2030 there will be 14-17 million patients with atrial fibrillation in the European Union, with 120,000-215,000 new diagnoses each year.
Dr Fransson said: "Atrial fibrillation is a common condition with serious consequences and therefore it is of major public health importance to find ways of preventing it. Little is known about risk factors for the disease and especially the role of the work environment."
This study assessed the link between work stress and atrial fibrillation. The study included 13,200 participants enrolled into the Swedish Longitudinal Occupational Survey of Health (SLOSH) in 2006, 2008, or 2010. Participants were employed and had no history of atrial fibrillation, heart attack, or heart failure. At study inclusion, participants completed postal surveys on sociodemographics, lifestyle, health, and work-related factors.
Work stress was defined as job strain, which refers to jobs with high psychological demands combined with low control over the work situation. The survey included five questions on job demands and six on control -- for example: Do you have to work very hard or very fast? Are there conflicting demands in your work? Do you have enough time to complete your work tasks? Does your work include a lot of repetition? Can you decide how and what to do at work?
During a median follow-up of 5.7 years, 145 cases of atrial fibrillation were identified from national registers.
Dr Fransson said: "In the general working population in Sweden, employees with stressful jobs were almost 50% more likely to develop atrial fibrillation. The estimated risk remained even after we took into account other factors such as smoking, leisure time physical activity, body mass index, and hypertension."
The authors then pooled their results with two other studies on the same topic, and found that job strain was associated with a 37% increased risk of atrial fibrillation. "Across studies there was a consistent pattern of work stress being a risk factor for atrial fibrillation," said Dr Fransson.
She concluded: "Work stress has previously been linked with coronary heart disease. Work stress should be considered a modifiable risk factor for preventing atrial fibrillation and coronary heart disease. People who feel stressed at work and have palpitations or other symptoms of atrial fibrillation should see their doctor and speak to their employer about improving the situation at work."
European guidelines on the prevention of cardiovascular disease state that stress at work contributes to the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and having a worse prognosis.3 Assessment of psychosocial risk factors is recommended in people who have, or are at risk of developing, cardiovascular disease.
Older workers tend to feel more stress than younger workers when their employers don't provide them with the support and resources needed to do their jobs well, according to a new study.
The study, published online in April in the Journal of Vocational Behavior, is part of a larger project aimed at improving employee health, safety, work-life balance and well-being.
The research team -- made up of Lale Yaldiz, a Ph.D. candidate in industrial-organizational psychology, and PSU psychology professors Donald Truxillo, Leslie Hammer and Todd Bodner -- surveyed 243 municipal public works employees between the ages of 24 and 64 over the course of a year.
The study found that both younger and older workers had lower levels of overall stress when they were given more autonomy on the job, had good relationships with their bosses and felt they were respected and treated fairly at work. But when such resources were lacking, older workers reported significantly higher stress levels a year later than their younger colleagues.
"These are things that employers should provide to all employees, but may be especially important for older employees," Truxillo said. "You don't want to have a company policy that says, 'We treat young people this way and old people that way,' but it does show you that age-sensitive human resource systems should be in place where you maybe train managers on how to be aware of the needs of their different workers."
Yaldiz said the findings suggest that older workers place a greater value on having autonomy and a supportive work environment than younger workers because those resources allow them to adapt to the psychological and physical changes that come with aging. For example, older workers tend to prioritize emotional needs and care more about having socially meaningful interactions and mentoring their colleagues than younger workers whose focus tends to be on gaining the skills they need to advance in their careers.
The authors say the findings are especially important as the number of workers who are 55 and older continues to grow. The U.S. Labor Bureau estimates that older workers will account for nearly a quarter of the workforce by 2020.
"With the workforce becoming more age-diverse and older at the same time, it is important to understand the differences between younger and older workers to help them cope with the demands of their work lives more effectively," Yaldiz said.
Among the study's recommendations:
-Rather than require that employees complete tasks a certain way, employers should, when possible, give workers the flexibility to bring their different skill sets, strengths and years of accumulated job experience to the table
-Training for supervisors should emphasize leadership skills about how to build strong relationships with workers of all ages so they feel like trusted and valued members of their team
-Since older workers appear to be more susceptible to stress in the face of unfairness, organizations can help workers by being transparent about how decisions are made and implemented, not discriminating, valuing employee input when making key decisions and providing channels for employees to voice concerns
Bodner said that in many ways, it's common sense.
"When you come down to it, focusing on bottom lines and ignoring these human resource factors have really bad results and can be more expensive down the road," he said. "By not focusing on the human side, it's a short-term gain but a long-term loss."
The researchers suggest that future studies should look at diverse worker groups across industries, jobs, gender and ethnicities to generalize the study findings, and explore the types of resources that are important to younger employees' well-being.
The study was supported by grants from the Oregon Healthy Workforce Center and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
New research reveals that frequently being the target of workplace aggression not only affects the victim's health but can also cause them to behave badly towards others. Workplace aggression is a significant issue particularly in the healthcare sector, where nurses can be targeted by both their colleagues and co-workers through bullying, and by patients and their relatives through 'third-party' aggression
Workplace aggression is a significant issue particularly in the healthcare sector, where nurses can be targeted by both their colleagues and co-workers through bullying, and by patients and their relatives through 'third-party' aggression.
While workplace aggression has been examined in relation to the health-related consequences for victims, less is known about the possible negative impact it may have on their own behaviour at work.
The findings of this study suggest that the experience of anger and fear associated with being the target of aggression at work could lead some nurses to translate the emotions that are triggered into misconduct, possibly disregarding professional and ethical codes.
Published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, the study was led by Dr Roberta Fida from UEA, working with colleagues from Coventry University, and universities in Italy and the US.
It involved 855 nurses, who were asked about their experiences of aggression, negative emotions and health symptoms. They were also asked how often they engaged in a range of counterproductive work behaviours, from insulting a colleague and stealing something belonging to an employer, to clinical misbehaviour related to restraining patients and modifying prescriptions without consulting doctors.
The results have implications for designing programmes aimed at increasing employees' well-being, the quality of the interactions with patients and staff, and the quality of care.
Dr Fida, a lecturer in organisational behaviour at UEA's Norwich Business School, said: "Our findings provide further evidence that being a target of aggression represents a frustrating situation in which victims experience anger that may prompt a 'hot' and impulsive aggressive response, with likely impact on the quality of care provided to patients.
"Little research has been conducted in the healthcare sector on this type of behaviour, despite the potential importance of the issue in this setting. There are consequences, not only for the direct victim, but also for the entire organizational system, in which it is possible to envision the trigger of vicious circles leading to broader and more diffuse forms of workplace aggression."
This is the first study to examine the specific role of frequent mistreatments at work in triggering misconduct and the emotions of anger, fear, and sadness separately. These emotions were studied because they are those most regularly experienced by targets of aggression, but are different in terms of mechanisms, consequences and strategies for managing them.
The authors also investigated the role of moral disengagement, namely a set of cognitive mechanisms that temporarily silence people's moral standards, allowing them to freely engage in conduct they would generally consider wrong.
Dr Fida said: "This research provides the first evidence of fear being an important discrete emotion associated with misconduct through moral disengagement. Since individuals experiencing fear are more alert and attentive to picking up potential external threats, and tend to perceive the environment as highly dangerous and threatening, they are more likely to engage in any form of behaviour, including aggression, which may potentially help them to defend themselves and comply with their need for protection."
The findings confirm that sadness is not associated with engaging in misconduct but is exclusively associated with health symptoms. Fear and anger are also associated with health symptoms, with the authors concluding that the emotional experience associated with being target of aggression, be it bullying or third party aggression, is associated with a range of health symptoms affecting nurses' well-being and their behaviour at work.
The authors suggest that training should focus on emotions and in particular on the specificity of the emotional experience. For example, it should help employees to gain awareness about the different possible emotional responses associated with the experience of aggression at work that may potentially lead to different dysfunctional paths for themselves and others.
In relation to the relevance of moral disengagement, it is also important to design and implement interventions aimed at promoting an ethical culture and providing examples of strategies to deal with threatening and hostile interactions.
Challenges and differences in opinion are inevitable when working in a team. But new research suggests some of these conflicts can be reduced, or even avoided, through team mindfulness
Team mindfulness refers to a shared belief within a team of focusing on the present moment and ensuring team members interact with one another without judgment. While individual mindfulness has gained traction around the world, research has yet to properly delve into the benefits of mindfulness in a group setting, which the researchers say could be achieved through activities such as meditation or yoga practiced as a team.
The study is the first to challenge the common belief that mindfulness is a solitary activity, and explores how team mindfulness can be beneficial to teams.
"Mindfulness has been proven to increase job satisfaction and psychological well-being and decrease stress in employees, so we wondered how these benefits may or may not transfer to a team environment," said Lingtao Yu, the study's lead author and assistant professor at Sauder. "We found that when teams are more mindful, this reduces interpersonal conflicts and helps teams better focus on the task at hand."
For the study, the researchers conducted two field studies with a total of 394 students in Masters of Business Administration programs in the United States to develop a scale of team mindfulness and to test the benefits of team mindfulness in reducing conflict. A third field study tested the benefits of team mindfulness within a different work culture using 292 health care workers in China.
The researchers found that, when teams are more mindful, the degree of interpersonal conflict decreased. Team members were also less likely to transform their frustration with a particular task into a personal conflict with their colleagues. This helped the team members detach from the task and eliminated strong emotions and feelings of prejudgment.
"Our research shows that interpersonal conflict can further spill over into interpersonal social undermining behaviours, harming teamwork as a whole," said study co-author Mary Zellmer-Bruhn of the University of Minnesota. "Team mindfulness can act as a safeguard against this and ensures that the task, rather than the person, remains the focus of reactions. It can also limit the intensity of one's opposition and negative emotions, thereby limiting escalation."
The researchers argue that more companies should consider making a concerted effort to be mindful -- not only for individual employees, but as a team. Organizations such as Google, Target, General Mills and UBC have been early adopters of individual mindfulness practices and recognize the benefits of it. For example, companies could benefit from bringing a meditation expert to carry out meditation sessions for teams.
"Given that more companies are employing a team-based organizational structure, where team interactions are critical and stress levels are high, we hope to design an evidence-based team mindfulness program that organizations can offer," said Yu. "We believe teams may benefit from doing meditation or yoga together, and setting aside time to share experiences so that team as a whole becomes more mindful."
The study was recently published in the Academy of Management Journal.
Work-life balance is not an issue exclusive to women, particularly mothers -- even men and those without children can suffer when they feel that their workplace culture is not family friendly, according to a new study.
When employees think their careers will suffer if they take time away from work for family or personal reasons, they have lower work satisfaction and experience more work-life spillover. In addition, they are more likely to intend to leave their jobs, say researchers at the University of Michigan and California State University Channel Islands.
Study co-author Erin Cech, U-M assistant professor of sociology, say these negative impacts of this kind of workplace culture have the potential to affect all workers. This underscores the need to overhaul work structures that threaten to penalize all workers for attempting to balance their work and home lives -- whether or not those lives include children, she said.
The study focused on understanding the "ideal worker norm" -- a belief many employers have that individuals should be single-mindedly devoted to them, available to work full-time until retirement and have few interruptions from family.
Researchers tested workplace flexibility bias using a nationally representative sample of more than 2,700 employed people (half were men). They answered questions about job satisfaction, engagement, job-to-home spillover, home-to-job spillover and turnover intentions.
Respondents reported their beliefs about their workplace environment, specifically whether they felt they could ask for time off for personal or family reasons and still get ahead in their jobs or careers.
Nearly 40 percent felt that workers at their jobs are unlikely to get ahead at work when they ask for time off. Many respondents were caregivers or used a flexible work schedule.
People typically think only women and moms experience work-family issues, and need flexible work arrangements, like telecommuting, part-time work or job sharing. Society believes it's women who bear the brunt of unfriendly work cultures, when it actually impacts all genders, says Lindsey Trimble O'Connor, lead author and assistant professor of sociology at California State University Channel Islands.
This flexibility bias, the researchers say, leaves workers with little control over their schedule, feeling unsupported by their companies or unhappy knowing that their company might be discriminating against those balancing work with personal responsibilities.
What can organizations do? It's not enough for them to have work-life policies on the books. They need to promote a culture where workers feel like they can use those policies without their careers being penalized, the researchers say.
One of the most important factors in ensuring student success is quality instruction by teachers. However, quality instruction can be a difficult goal if teachers do not have the resources to improve their skills and if rising levels of teacher stress go unchecked. Now, researchers have found that high levels of job-related stress affect 93 percent of teachers, a greater percentage than previously thought. Classrooms with highly stressed teachers tend to have the poorest student outcomes, such as lower grades and frequent behavior problems.
"It's no secret that teaching is a stressful profession," said Keith Herman, professor in the MU College of Education. "However, when stress interferes with personal and emotional well-being at such a severe level, the relationships teachers have with students are likely to suffer, much like any relationship would in a high stress environment."
Aside from training and general competence, one factor that can influence successful behavior interventions and classroom management is teacher stress and coping. Herman analyzed teacher profiles by level of stress, level of coping ability and the level of burnout the teacher felt. He found that teachers with low levels of stress and high coping ability are few and far between.
"It's troubling that only 7 percent of teachers experience low stress and feel they are getting the support they need to adequately cope with the stressors of their job," Herman said. "Even more concerning is that these patterns of teacher stress are related to students' success in school, both academically and behaviorally. For example, classrooms with highly stressed teachers have more instances of disruptive behaviors and lower levels of prosocial behaviors."
The researchers outline a few methods that might better support highly stressed teachers. Herman suggests that teachers have access to screening processes that can identify a need for more support to avoid further stress and burnout. Building initiatives and programs that promote mental health practices and overall health can be extremely beneficial for teachers. However, Herman says that focusing on individual coping strategies is just a start to fighting the broader social contexts that influence teacher stress.
"We as a society need to consider methods that create nurturing school environments not just for students, but for the adults who work there," Herman said. "This could mean finding ways for administrators, peers and parents to have positive interactions with teachers, giving teachers the time and training to perform their jobs, and creating social networks of support so that teachers do not feel isolated."
Repetitive thoughts on rude behavior at work results in insomnia
April 23, 2018
Science Daily/American Psychological Association
If you've had a bad day at work thanks to rude colleagues, doing something fun and relaxing after you punch out could net you a better night's sleep.
That was the key finding of research that appears in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, published by the American Psychological Association.
"Sleep quality is crucial because sleep plays a major role in how employees perform and behave at work," said lead author Caitlin Demsky, PhD, of Oakland University. "In our fast-paced, competitive professional world, it is more important than ever that workers are in the best condition to succeed, and getting a good night's sleep is key to that."
Demsky and her co-authors surveyed 699 employees of the U.S. Forest Service. Participants were asked to rate the level of rude behavior they experienced in the workplace, how often they had negative thoughts about work, whether they have insomnia symptoms and how much they were able to detach from work and relax. Researchers also asked about the number of children under 18 living at home, hours worked per week, and frequency of alcoholic drinks as these have previously been linked with sleep issues.
Experiencing rude or negative behavior at work, such as being judged or verbally abused, was linked with more symptoms of insomnia, including waking up multiple times during the night. But people who were able to detach and do something relaxing to recover after work -- such as yoga, listening to music or going for a walk -- slept better.
"Incivility in the workplace takes a toll on sleep quality," said Demsky. "It does so in part by making people repeatedly think about their negative work experiences. Those who can take mental breaks from this fare better and do not lose as much sleep as those who are less capable of letting go."
Repeated negative thoughts about work may also be linked to several health problems, including cardiovascular diseases, increased blood pressure and fatigue, according to the authors.
Demsky suggests that managers can be role models for employees after work by not sending work-related messages outside of business hours, for example.
The authors also suggested that employers encourage programs aimed at reducing workplace incivility, such as "Civility, Respect, Engagement in the Workforce," launched by the Veterans Health Administration to promote positive and respectful communication among co-workers. The program seeks to change work cultures with resources that focus on the benefits of civility at the office.
Researchers have developed a new comprehensive model of workplace anxiety. It includes triggers for anxiety in the workplace and its effect on employee performance.
"There are a lot of theories and models of anxiety that exist, but this is the first model situated in the workplace focusing on employees," says co-author Julie McCarthy from the Department of Management at U of T Scarborough and the Rotman School of Management.
McCarthy, along with her former grad student and lead author Bonnie Hayden Cheng, now an assistant professor at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, looked at both the triggers of workplace anxiety and also its relationship to employee performance.
"If you have too much anxiety, and you're completely consumed by it, then it's going to derail your performance," says McCarthy, who is an expert on organizational behaviour.
"On the other hand, moderate levels of anxiety can facilitate and drive performance."
If employees are constantly distracted or thinking about things that are causing them anxiety, it will prevent them from completing tasks at work and that can eventually lead to exhaustion and burnout, says Cheng.
But in certain situations anxiety can boost performance by helping employees focus and self-regulate their behaviour. She compares it to athletes who are trained to harness anxiety in order to remain motivated and stay on task. Likewise, if employees engage in something called self-regulatory processing, that is monitoring their progress on a task and focusing their efforts toward performing that task, it can help boost their performance.
"After all, if we have no anxiety and we just don't care about performance, then we are not going to be motivated to do the job," says Cheng.
She says that work-anxious employees who are motivated are more likely to harness anxiety in order to help them focus on their tasks. Those who are emotionally intelligent, can recognize their feelings of anxiety and use it to regulate their performance, as well as those who are experienced and skilled at their job, are also less likely to have anxiety affect their performance.
The model of workplace anxiety Cheng and McCarthy developed is broken into two categories.
One covers dispositional aspects, that is those that align with individual character traits. If someone already experiences high levels of general anxiety for example, their experiences with workplace anxiety will be different from those who don't.
The other covers situational aspects, those that arise in specific job tasks. Some employees may be more affected by job appraisals, public speaking or other tasks that can distract them and lead to poor performance.
The study, which is published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, also outlines many of the triggers for workplace anxiety. The most prominent include jobs that require constant expression or suppression of emotion -- think "service with a smile" -- as well as jobs with constant looming deadlines or frequent organizational change.
Office politics and control over work are other important factors. Employee characteristics including age, gender and job tenure can also affect the experience of workplace anxiety.
The authors note that anxiety is a growing issue for workplaces. Recent research has found that 72 per cent of Americans experiencing daily anxiety say it interferes with their work and personal lives.
While the authors do not condone inducing anxiety in employees to foster high performance, the good news for employees who chronically experience anxiety at work, or who experience it from time to time, is that it can help performance if they can self-regulate their behaviour.
"Managing anxiety can be done by recognizing and addressing triggers of workplace anxiety, but also being aware of how to leverage it in order to drive performance," says Cheng.
She says there are many strategies organizations can use to help employees. Some of these include training to help boost self-confidence, offering tools and resources to perform tasks at work, and equipping employees with strategies to recognize, use, and manage feelings of anxiety through emotional intelligence development.
New research evaluates gender differences in cooperation
April 16, 2018
Science Daily/Chapman University
Researchers have measured gender differences in cooperation and punishment behavior. Results showed that men punish more than women, men obtain higher rank, and punishment by males decreases payoffs for both sexes. Furthermore, men are willing to punish people who have done nothing wrong, except cooperate to the fullest extent possible.
Results suggest that status-seeking men are willing to impose enormous costs on others and destroy their group to move up in the hierarchy. According to the study, men may punish more than women for two reasons: First, punishment is often viewed as similar to physical conflict. Men are known to favor physical punishment of unfair behavior. Men are also less cooperative and less generous compared with their female counterparts.
Second, status affects cooperative behavior and women may feel differently about status and rank. If so, punishment may be a tool used by certain individuals to advance in rank. For example, explicit rank-based incentives caused men to punish at roughly twice the rate of women.
"Outside the laboratory, high-powered punishment and rank-based reward may be the norm," said Terence Burnham, Ph.D, associate professor in Chapman University's Argyros School of Business and Economics, and sole author of this study. "This study connects academic research to current headlines including the #metoo movement."
Mixed-gender situations with the ability to punish others occur daily in the workplace. These types of punishments can range from reputational harm to more direct financial impacts such as being terminated from your position. Studies of gender and costly cooperation are relatively rare, and existing studies reveal no clear relationship between gender and certain cooperative behaviors.
Dr. Burnham conducted a public goods game with 96 undergraduate students from Chapman University. Four experimental sessions with 24 subjects each had equal numbers of men and women. During this game, subjects secretly chose how many of their private tokens to place into a public pot, with each participant keeping the tokens they did not contribute. The tokens in this pot were multiplied by 1.6 and divided equally among four players in a group. All decisions were made via independent computers, while subjects were instructed not to look at anyone's screen or speak to one another. Participants in each session played this game with and without rank-based payoffs.